Spark Joy

I finished reading Spark Joy (affiliate link) this last weekend, and everybody is feeling the results! It was a dangerous book for me to read – I’d read two pages, and then go clean out half the drawers in my kitchen. My family is starting to feel like nothing is safe in our house, which might be a good thing, because maybe they’ll start hiding their stuff, and that means less clutter.;)

I wasn’t actually planning to read Spark Joy, but I stumbled across it at the library, and decided to skim through it. It ended up being a lot more interesting and helpful than I was anticipating. I had low expectations because it’s a sequel, and is the sequel ever as good (or better!) than the first book?!

It’s by Marie Kondo, the author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (affiliate link), which surprisingly lived up to it’s name – I think my life was changed from reading it! I read it during my decluttering challenge in 2015 (which you can read about here, here, and here), and it was a huge contributing factor to me reaching my goal of decluttering 2015 things in the year 2015. What impacted me the most from The Life-Changing Magic was the way Marie Kondo changes the usual decluttering question of “What do I want to get rid of?” to “What do I want to keep?”

She recommends emptying everything out of your closet or cupboard or drawer, picking up each item, and considering if it’s worth keeping, based on one qualification – does it spark joy? In the beginning, that seems like a strange question, but I quickly found there were some clothes I didn’t like wearing, books I felt guilty for not reading, and knives or potato peelers which were annoying to use. Marie Kondo claims that as you exercise your ability to find joy, you will become better at determining which objects are increasing pleasure in your life (even if the “pleasure” they produce is just by being useful).

By the time you finish the process all over your house, getting rid of anything you don’t love or appreciate, you are left only with things you love. I find it takes all the guilt and heaviness out of decluttering – never get rid of something you truly want to keep. If you want to keep it, it sparks joy. Keep nothing out of guilt or obligation.

While I completely love this idea, I felt as though I got it figured out the first time around, when I read The Life-Changing Magic. I wasn’t sure what Spark Joy would add to my life.

Reading it has solidified the ideas from Kondo’s first book, and it’s just very motivating to read, even if there’s nothing groundbreaking in the second book. It was good to be reminded of what I learned in 2015. There were also a lot of very helpful, practical storage and organization tips for specific areas of the house, and my kitchen drawers have never looked better.:) I’ve learned that it’s actually possible to experience a spark of joy from opening my underwear drawer and seeing everything neatly organized.

Kondo claims that if you get rid of enough stuff, find a place for everything that remains, and spend just a minimal amount of time maintaining it, your house will never get messy again.

I have not achieved this in the areas I share with the four other people in our home, but I’m definitely seeing the truth of it in the areas that are mine to maintain, and don’t get messed up by others. This ties in with what Marie Kondo says you should do when family members don’t want to declutter – deal with your own stuff first, which should keep you busy for quite some time, and by the time you’re done, there’s a good chance the desire to simplify will spread. It’s quite contagious!:)

Also, I’ve noticed that when my areas are tidy, like the kitchen, our bedroom and master bathroom, I can handle more clutter in the shared areas, like the living room or main room in the basement.

Kondo stresses keeping things clear – I found it interesting that even in the kitchen, she recommends leaving your counters as bare as possible.

I tried this a few months ago, after listening to “The Minimalists” podcast, but Marie Kondo is even more hardcore – she thinks even your soap should be stored off the counter. Trying this for the second time, I was able to get even more stuff off my counters, and the emptier it gets, the more I love it! It makes cleaning after a meal so much more enjoyable. My soap is still on the counter for the time being, but I’m eyeing this rack from Amazon for under-the-counter storage:

I also loved her view on decluttering items received from others, like gifts or cards:

“The main purpose of a greeting card is to convey a greeting. The moment you finish reading it, its job is done. Keep only those that truly spark joy.”

I feel the same about gifts – we give each other gifts to show love and try to delight others with things that would make them happy. Love is shown simply in the act of giving the gift, no matter what it is. Sometimes the delight comes in getting rid of it.;) If we are offended by the thought of someone decluttering the gifts we give them, I see two solutions: choose gifts with greater intention (like asking them what they really want, if you don’t know), and release the gift once it’s been given. You’ve given it away, and it’s not up to you to control what happens to it. Its mission was accomplished the moment you put that gift into another person’s hands, regardless of how much they end up using it. This feels very freeing to me – if I don’t find the perfect gift, it’s okay. I still gave it in love.

And so, we press on around here, getting rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy. My girls are no longer afraid of decluttering, as they were when they thought it meant getting rid of things they love. They’ve embraced the idea that getting rid of things they don’t use or like leaves more room for what they love, and will often declutter on their own (Yessss!!! That’s a huge victory!)

Marie Kondo writes that anywhere you find mess in your home, it’s a sign you haven’t gotten rid of enough yet, and it’s an opportunity to let go of items clogging your life. You guys, it’s so addicting! I know I’ve written about this many times already, but it’s really true – the more I declutter, the more fun it gets, and the more I enjoy our house.

If you’re feeling stuck, Spark Joy might be a great book for you to read – you might suddenly feel inspired to tackle the kitchen drawers! I’d recommend starting with The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, just to get you going, and then moving on to Spark Joy.

So tell me: where do you need some magical tidying up in your life? Do you enjoy decluttering, or feel stressed by it? Love or hate it?!




3 Goals for the New Year

I have a love/hate relationship with New Year’s Resolutions.

The idea of resolutions is completely fantastic, and something my goal-loving self can easily get carried away with, but I really don’t need another reason to beat myself up over unrealistic expectations. I gave myself a break for many years, and left New Year’s Resolutions behind, but for this year, I’ve come across a few things I can comfortably get behind. Nothing too demanding, and I really don’t even like to call them something as official as “resolutions” – they’re more like little practices I want to add to my life to hopefully bring about growth and greater intention.

1) Five Year Prayer Journal

I don’t journal regularly – more just as the need arises and I have an urge to get things off my chest. I jot notes down when I’m doing my devotions, if there’s something specific I want to remember. But I heard about this idea while listening to a sermon, and I loved it – using a five year journal to keep track of what I’m praying for.


I like it because it’s simple and quick, and a really easy, organized way to look back on how God has been working in my life, sometimes so gradually I don’t even notice. This seems like something which will encourage me to wait on God in a more long-term kind of way, and as I’ve started to fill in the first lines for 2017, I feel a lot of joy and anticipation for how God will answer prayers and surprise me over the next five years. There’s no way to know what will fill those lines, and I’m so thankful He’s brought me to a place where I can eagerly anticipate it, and not be filled with worry or fear about the future. He’s proven His goodness again and again, even during the darkest times, and I know He will do it again.

It’s not too late to start this little habit for the new year, if it grabs your interest! You can order this journal from Amazon by heading over here. (affiliate link)

2) Declutter 2017 Things in 2017

This goal is a little more intimidating, but I’m okay with it because I’ve done it before (in 2015), and am pretty sure I can do it again. Last time, I just made tally marks on a paper, but this time I’ve printed out the chart that keeps popping up on Facebook, and already, I have to say – colouring in those boxes on an official chart is WAY more fun, and very motivating. I let myself get a little head start in December, and I’ve already hit 100 things, so we’re off to a good start!

You can find the chart here.

3) Budget Consistently

We’ve budgeted off and on over the years, but every time we have a baby and go into survival mode, budgeting falls by the wayside. This fall, Ben and I decided to get back on track, and since there should be no more babies, we’re hoping to stay consistent! I’m excited to start this year off fresh. The first few months were for getting a feel for where we’re at and how we’re spending, but now we’ve built up a record of how we spend, and we can work at setting goals.

Three little goals for the new year! Do you have any goals you’re hoping to accomplish? Do share!



A Week of Birthday Favorites

Today is my 38th birthday, and the best part is I thought I was turning 39! It happens every year – Ben has his birthday in January, and I slip into thinking I’m already the same age as him, even though I’m six months behind. By the time my birthday roles around, I’m thinking I should be turning a year older, and it’s always a pleasant surprise to realize I’m a year younger than I thought I was!

Every year, I carry on a tradition started by my mom when I was a kid: make a list of birthday favorites. There are two reasons why I carry on with this tradition – it takes me back to all those years of sitting down with my mom to make a list, and even though my favorite foods were always chocolate cake and spaghetti, and my mom already knew that, it just made me feel special to have that one on one time with her, when she made a big deal about recording the things I liked.

The other reason I like doing it is because it’s a reminder of how change and growth continues to happen at any age. Every year, I want to keep pushing myself, learning and discovering, and never forgetting there is so much life to live, new things to enjoy, experiences to have. It might be the smallest things, but if it’s touched my life in a positive way, it’s worth recording.

In the past, I’ve spread this over a month of blog posts, which gets a bit intense, so we’ll make it a week of birthday favorites. And as always, I welcome you to add your favorites in the comments, because I love to hear what other people are enjoying! It’s interesting, inspiring, and gives me new ideas for the next year.

This last year was a tough one for me, but it’s definitely true that hard times are when we can grow the most, so it’s awesome to look back at this last year and see change. For today’s favorites, I’ve been trying to figure out what has brought about some of the biggest change:


It’s a bit humbling to start off with this one, and I hate the stigma around something so incredibly beneficial. Only weak people need counseling, right?! But I think really we all need counseling, because everybody has their own junk, and it is just super hard to work through it all on our own.

To have a completely safe place where I could be brutally honest, and share the ugliest, weakest, most pathetic thoughts with someone who was never shocked or judgmental turned out to be something very life-giving. My counselor walked me through some really tough issues. Sometimes she gave me the words to express what I’d never been able to put into words, other times she just listened. She challenged me to let go of old habits and thought patterns which were not serving me well.

I went for counseling because I had postpartum anxiety and the doctor suggested it, but my sessions went far beyond that issue, and gave me some tools I hope to use for the rest of my life. I don’t think I’m done with counseling – I’m taking some time to mentally chew on all I learned and uncovered, and trying to put all these new things into practice. But in time, I hope to go back again, and work through some more issues, because it really was such a helpful thing to do.


I set out to declutter 2015 things in the year 2015, which resulted in a lot more than just repeated trips to the thrift shop. I experienced a shift in my thinking, about belongings as well as just about life in general. Because of having postpartum anxiety, I had to simplify our schedule, and strip away some hard things like guilt and expectations. In order to function well, I needed to keep things very simple with how we spent our time, and I noticed that the tidier our house was, the better I felt. Life just felt more manageable when things were in their place, and the more I got rid of stuff, the easier it became to keep everything under control.

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up last summer, and it lived up to it’s title! Up until reading that book, my thinking was, “What am I going to get rid of? What do I not use anymore?” Afterwards, it became, “What am I going to keep? What gives me joy?” The change in questions made it much easier to let go of things for better reasons.


I recommend the book to anyone who is interested in pursuing a lighter load in life! You can read more about the book and the results over here.


I have an app on my phone so I can listen to podcasts while I’m doing housework or driving. This has been amazing, because I’m learning so much from great speakers, and it’s a productive use of time. Sometimes when I have too much time to think, it can lead to negative thoughts, but I love turning on a podcast to get my thoughts back in a good place.

Here are a few of my favorite podcasts right now:

Life Church – I’m working on the “Stay Positive” series, and it’s been very encouraging and motivating.

Meeting House – Bruxy Cavey will always be one of my favorite preachers to listen to.

Janet Lansbury Unruffled – I just started listening to these, but I love her thoughts on parenting. She has a very calm, gentle approach to strong emotions.

HopeWriters – This is a really positive, encouraging and motivating podcast for anyone who enjoys writing.

Personality Hacker – I’ve been learning so much about my personality, and why I interact with people the way I do. It’s led to a huge shift in thinking, and I’m curious about where it’s going to lead.

ProBlogger – For anyone interested in improving a blog.

Homeschool Leadercast – I’ve listened to some great speakers with practical tips on teaching and parenting.

Alright, that’s my first bunch of favorites! What have you been enjoying recently? Is there anything you’ve tried that has positively impacted your life?

How Decluttering Leaves More Room For Love

Friends, I have 450 items to get rid of in order to reach my purging goal for the year: 2015 in the year 2015!

I am very excited, and also a bit dismayed. How in the world do we have so much junk in our house??!!

My home doesn’t look that full or messy. It’s usually quite clean and tidy, because clutter makes me grumpy. And I’ve always had a donations box on the go, for items I came across that we no longer needed. But even so, I have been able to get rid of 1565 items without any trouble.

I notice that our home is a little easier to keep tidy. There’s more room in some drawers. Our basement looked fairly awesome…until Ben started finishing it, and now it’s under construction, which would not have been possible if we hadn’t gotten rid of so much stuff.:)

But the sad truth is that I could probably do this whole thing over again and get rid of 2016 things in the year 2016. So much stuff!!!

Even though I was expecting my home to look emptier and a lot more minimalist, I am still completely thrilled with the results, and I’m not about to stop purging anytime soon. It’s addicting, freeing, and I feel so much lighter when I think of all the boxes we have sent out the door. I’ve probably made a few hundred dollars on our town’s Buy and Sell Facebook page. (I kept track in the beginning, but lost count after awhile.)

I think the best part, though, is that I love my stuff that remains. I’ve gotten rid of the junk that made me feel guilty or burdened, and I just feel happy with the things that are left.


In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo writes a lot about only keeping things that spark joy. It’s not even about the things we actually use – it’s about how those things make us feel. I might use things I don’t like at all, out of obligation or guilt. Or I might have something I rarely use, but I really love it and it makes me very happy the few times I am able to make use of it.

When we get rid of all the things we don’t love, it leaves wonderful things behind, with more space and freedom to enjoy them.

THAT is the best thing I have learned this year.

Also…I love this blog post: “Clutter builds up when we stop making decisions about our stuff.” 

“Rather than choose which wrapping paper we like most, we buy all 13 rolls in a jumbo package. Rather than donate clothing that no longer fits, we hang it back up “in case I need it.” Rather than recycle back issues of a magazine, we stick it on the shelf to read “later.”

It’s those items — the ones that we don’t use or love or need — which slowly fill our closets and drawers, our garages and attics.

Those are the items that make it hard to see the painting on the wall that you do love, hard to find your one snuggliest pair of ski socks, hard to clear off the table to share a meal with the people you love.”

So true.

And very motivating for my final purging push – 450 more things gone by Christmas!

Want to join me?!


Getting Rid of Junk

Every once in a while, I come across a blog post that I really, really wish I had written, just because it’s brilliant, and perfectly worded, and I agree 100% with absolutely everything in it.

The Powerful Difference Between Organizing and Decluttering is one of those posts.

I read it this morning while I was eating my breakfast. I was sitting at our kitchen counter, which had an enormous pile of papers and junk that I needed to sort through, a job I’d been putting off for far too long.

As I sat there surrounded by my junk, I read this:

Living with less trumps organizing because organizing is temporary…..

Decluttering—or, just getting rid of stuff, is permanent. It leaves your four walls, and immediately you have more visual and physical space. Your shoulders feel lighter, you know where everything is, and you truly love everything left. And you love your home just a little bit more.

I looked at my pile for a while, and I thought, “I am tired of trying to find the right place to store all of that stuff. Could I just throw EVERYTHING away??”

I went through the pile, and it turned out there were only three papers that need to be filed (in existing files, so that was easy), and a notebook and two notepad that needed to be put back in a drawer.


The rest could get thrown out!!


Do you have any piles in your house that need to be thrown out instead of organized?